St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES offers reopening advice

Natalie DiFabion, from left, Mason Andiorio and Elieana DiSalvo attend their socially distanced English class in December 2020 at Case Middle School in Watertown. The St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services has issued its guidance for the reopening of schools. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — The St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services has issued reopening guidance for its 18 component districts and BOCES when school doors open on Sept. 3.

The guidance follows the most recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Education Department and American Academy of Pediatrics.

In keeping with that guidance, districts will have in-person instruction five days a week, all staff and students will be masked regardless of their vaccination status, and social distancing will be maintained at 3 feet as practicable to resume normal activities.

“Given the prevalence of the delta variant and our recent rate of COVID infection, 131 active cases today per 100,000 (7-day count), this places us in a red zone of high transmission. Layered mitigation strategies will be in place such as hand washing, covering coughs, disinfecting and cleaning, and health screenings,” BOCES officials said in a press release.

They said BOCES and its component districts will continue to collaborate with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department to contact trace in instances where there are potential close contacts to a positive COVID person.

“Schools will revisit the guidance moving forward as local COVID conditions allow,” they said.

The 18 school districts in St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES are St. Lawrence, Heuvelton, Canton, Lisbon, Clifton-Fine, Madrid-Waddington, Colton-Pierrepont, Massena, Edwards-Knox, Morristown, Gouverneur, Norwood-Norfolk, Hammond, Ogdensburg, Harrisville, Parishville-Hopkinton, Hermon-DeKalb and Potsdam.

The state Education Department released a “health and safety guide” for reopening New York schools last week. The guide uses information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which the state Department of Health has advised school districts to consult for guidance.

“With the end of the state disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are re-established as the controlling entity for schools. Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments,” DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said recently.

The state Education Department’s guide also uses information the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SED officials said the guide is designed to be used in conjunction with numerous other local, state and national resources available to schools to help them manage risks for students and staff from COVID-19 while supporting engaged learning for all students. It’s based on the best health and safety information that’s currently available and will be updated as public health conditions change.

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